All the world's a stage

All the world's a stage

Posted: Wednesday 15 January 2014. Author: Capita HR solutions.

"There are 17 different things a guy can do when he lies to give himself away. A guy's got 17 pantomimes. A woman's got 20, but a guy's got 17..."

Vincenzo Coccotti, True Romance

SO IT'S coming up to that time of year again - appraisal time; where managers and employees dance around performance and where scores and opinions are often as objective as those dished out by Bruno, Darcy, Len and Craig on Strictly.

While there may not be 17 (or even 20) pantomimes that occur within each yearly appraisal process there are certainly enough issues that suggest we take a closer look at how we conduct these so lets take a look at 10 of the most common pantomimes that happen and how we might re-write the script:
1. Be vague and you won't offend - 15 minutes of uncomfortable variations on 'things are going well' and 'you're doing good' with no concrete examples or evidence. These mean very little to switched on employees so think about actually having some objective evidence to back it up.
2. I never saw it coming - closely related to the previous point. Employees walk around on a paper platform made of the aforementioned platitudes and then never understand why it suddenly gives way and they are the ones who are deemed dispensable or why they are suddenly being dismissed for performance issues.
3. Still delivering the sandwich - anyone who has been on a performance management course between 1960 and now will have heard of the feedback sandwich, ie give the bad news as the 'filling' with two pieces of good news surrounding it,  so it doesn't seem as bad. Please don't. This comes across as insincere at best and can often obscure the issue you are trying to address. Keep your praise and criticism discrete and separate.
4. Appraisals cover the entire year - if we are being honest most managers won't remember what an employee did one month ago, let alone the past 12. Hence it's always a good idea for both manager and employee alike to keep a contemporary record of achievement (and failure) so both can be objectively discussed.
5. Staff prefer the informal approach - a few might but most really don't. Most see this as an opportunity for some quality one-to-one time with their manager to seriously discuss work. There is no excuse for holding an appraisal meeting in five minutes over coffee and a bagel. If you believe it's a necessary part of the work cycle then give it its time and place.
6. You can't handle the truth - of course we can, we might not like it but we are all (most of us anyway) grown ups. We can handle the truth just fine as long as it's delivered with objective evidence supporting it and in a professional manner.
7. Mimophants don't exist - they do (a cross between a mimosa plant, which shrivels away at the slightest touch and an elephant). Some people (mimophants) will react very badly to any critique of themselves but will gladly trample all over the feelings of other people. In an appraisal system there has to be two way communication with both parties prepared to give and receive objective criticism where necessary.
8. I can wing this - of course you can, but don't expect it to be a meaningful or productive meeting. Don't expect an employee to engage in the future if they catch you winging it  either. Take the time to do the prep.
9. Really good staff don't need to be told they are good once a year - okay, maybe not, nothing should really be a surprise at appraisal time but don't underestimate how much good workers simply like to hear formally how well they are doing. Don't you?
10. Giving top marks keeps the peace - it might keep the peace for while but soon you are going to have a department with (on paper) everyone being excellent at everything and nowhere to go when someone really  does produce brilliant work. Managers and employees need to be realistic and understand that sometimes their work is simply average, not excellent. Excellence should be the preserve of the outstanding, the sensational. Turning up, doing a decent job, causing no trouble; that's average, that's not excellent. It's always worth remembering that every pantomime has a villain - try not to let that be you.

Capita HR solutions